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The instant, universal, collective amnesia of the MSM

Turnbull suffers a massive loss, the election result is on a knife’s edge, and so the afternoon after the election the Australian press is full of questions about Bill Shorten and his leadership.


All the while not a single one of our mainstream press agencies has devoted any time to trying to work out why they all got the whole election so very wrong. Think back on the last eight weeks of coverage in the light of the result. Then think about what the polls have been telling us (and the pundits) all this time. The predictions of the mainstream press were universally wrong. The narrative (the liberals will cruise home) was wrong. Their predictions regarding the way in which the pre-poll and the postal votes would break was wrong.

It’s a wonder that any of them got the date correct.

However, even so, not a single one of our mainstream ‘news’ agencies has bothered to apologise to the Australian public for being so ignorant of the actual state of opinion in Australia. For the entire length of the election campaign. For the third election campaign in a row. Problem? What problem?

And it seems that Aussies have even given up being exasperated. We now seem to just expect our press to get it wrong and then get it wrong again. To the extent that it isn’t even mentioned anymore. This morning it was immediately obvious that none of our press agencies was willing to acknowledge that everything they had said for the three months up to about 9.30 pm the night before had been complete and utter bullshit.

Nobody, in any paper or on any channel, bothered to observe that the majority of consumers might have actually been better served if they had simply asked a local tradesman or butcher, or had a conversation with their hairdresser. Instead all I found was instant, universal, collective, amnesia.

I suppose that pretending that they always actually knew what they were saying is the best option. Instantly there is no need to apologise to the 30% of Aussies who voted for a small party or an independent candidate for totally ignoring them and their interests for the entire length of the campaign. Instantly there is no reason to apologise for actively ignoring all the published poll data pointing to a hung parliament and instead substituting their own ideological whimsy.

The reality is that if we want to fix the Australian political system we have to start with reforming our mainstream press. There has to be some rules. The mainstream press agencies need to be owned by local corporate entities that are subject to ethical and editorial controls. A newspaper needs to label news as news and opinion as opinion and fearlessly and unambiguously report on all the events and issues of importance to a community without fear or favour. We don’t have that in our country.

The Fairfax and News Ltd behemoths are no longer engaged in providing news to the Australian population. If any ‘news’ is imparted to the consumer of one of their products it is entirely a by-product of what they are doing. It is most certainly not what the owners of these corporations want from their investment. The bosses who run our news corporations see them as being Public Relations companies who happen to handle news. They see these corporations as being designed to provide favourable publicity for the ideas and interests that the owners of these outlets want to see promoted. As far as the executives in charge of our media companies are concerned, these corporations have long since ceased to be ‘news’ outlets in everything except in name. Media outlets in Australia are first and foremost purveyors of influence and political favour.

So until we have rules to force the divestment of all of the major papers and television stations in our country into local hands then we might as well give up on trying to reform our politics. Currently our media outlets simply have no morals or even a comprehension that ethics and reporting need have any relationship. In the modern age our media establishments have become an impediment to progress. One of their reasons for being is to impede progress towards realising any social goal that the owners of these media behemoths do not want to see realised.

So we come to the juncture where the only reason we cannot get a great many things done that are both popular and also in the public interest is simply because our mainstream press, and their corporate backers, will simply not allow us to even discuss the possibility of change. Nor will they allow our politicians to talk about change.

Who will deny that our media barons lead our politicians around on leads and slap them down whenever they bark the wrong tune. Our media forces all of our politicians to pretend that they are living in a 1950’s Sunday School where cannabis will kill you, coal is good for humanity, tax breaks for corporations will make you better off, wind turbines will make you ill, and public support for private hospitals and schools will help make poor people healthier and so much better educated. Our politicians are in a straight jacket designed by our corporations and fitted by our journalists.

It is our press that will not let us reform our drug laws. Or address climate change. Or increase taxes. Or tax corporations effectively. Or reign in the banks. Or pull the plug on all the perks. Or tax resource extraction. etc etc The population may be in favour of it, and in most cases our politicians would do it if they could, but when it comes to almost every progressive issue facing our society our mighty corporate press overlords will not even allow us to discuss the matter in our own media or within our own parliaments.

If any unwanted conversation does break out then it will be immediately howled down and demonised. The person speaking will be labelled a radical, immoral, wide-eyed, dangerous, crazy, or a danger to our society and/or our kiddies. Then the whole thing will never be mentioned again in the mainstream press except to belittle the idea or the proponent should they ever dare resurface in public.

Of course ‘the tyranny of the Australian press monopoly’ is a subject that will never be mentioned in our press. Talking about the need to foster a plurality of voices and owners amongst our media organisations is simply a thing of the past. The whole conversation has been obliterated. Even knowledge that we once thought and talked a great deal about this topic has now been wiped from our collective memory. Orwell said something that is likely to be pertinent here – however a recollection of exactly what it was seems to have slipped away.

So while all of our press got the whole of the election hideously wrong, and spent the entire length of the election campaign telling us how the Turnbull government would be, and should be, returned with an ample majority. In the modern age this failure really does not matter. The veracity of ‘news’ is no longer important. After all; there is no need to be accurate when you have no competitors. And what the hell use is a ‘news’ organisation if you can’t use it to wield incredibly disproportionate amounts of power and influence on behalf of the owner? If it takes a few lies and a bit of misinformation then so what? It’s not as if there are any rules to stop them.

So the biased, inaccurate, and simply wrongheaded nature of the majority of the mainstream reporting of the whole of the election campaign – will be entirely ignored. We will suffer the same again next election.

Instead of navel gazing and seeking to work out where they might have gone wrong our journalists are all back at work today doing what they get paid to do. Today that means focussing on whether or not the members of the Labor Party, after winning a historic victory over all the forces of corporate nastiness, will all suddenly want to begin a catfight amongst themselves for no apparent reason except that it might make a really good post-election story. (You know – something that fits in nicely with an existing narrative.)

They will continue to learn nothing. There is nothing for them to learn. They are all doing their jobs brilliantly.

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  1. diannaart

    Right-wing dominated MSM – not given to much self-reflection, at all, ever.

    (possibly due to confusion with the words self-reflection and self-election)

  2. bilko

    Amen, Labor should have pushed harder when they tried to introduce the media reforms, aka Julia and Stephen Conroy 4yrs ago, on the lines of the Canadian implementation. I understand it is why Murdoch does not have a foothold there, I wish we could dislodge his hands around our throaths.saty alert we need more lerts

  3. Jaquix

    So right – its an absolute disgrace the way they “report” things. I find some Fairfax authors readable/credible, but Murdochs are just plain deluded; dangerously so. Australia suffers from this propaganda. Worse, they studiously ignore Labor achievements, and policy announcements. People therefore just get the “same old Labor, chaos, deals with awful Greens blah, blah, blah”) that our undignified Prime Minister trotted out throughout this campaign. (Isnt that a scare campaign too, Malcolm?).This partly explains why so many unengaged voters just vote according to these mantras, without understanding the consequences. What can we do to improve the news sources in this country? Like the idea of only allowing resident Oz ownership, for a start. This, and educating the public about modern economics, could be projects for Labor to work on, should they be pipped at the post this time. The next 3 years with the dysfunctional Libs is going to be a wasteland of missed oppirtunities, if the Libs scrape in.

  4. Freethinker

    If one day is a press reform I hope that the journalists that are prepared to bring down he bar of quality journalism will be “ear marked” so they will never have that job again.

  5. SGB

    Just cannot understand the voting public !

  6. Ally

    First time I have ever commented here. I think the above article does an excellent job of pointing out the problems with our media. I would like to open a discussion on how we might go about overcoming this problem. I don’t think the existing system can be fixed so the only option would be to bypass it.

    Perhaps what we need is a wider community moderated group that approves and rates truthful news sources (without regard to left or right leaning, just factual content by trusted and proven sources) and hopefully as word spreads more people will come to use these sources instead of the mainstream media?

  7. Kaye Lee


    I would say the majority of AIMN readers and contributors are progressive, but we do a lot of fact checking with links provided, as do several other independent online sources. The truth is available for those who want to find it.

  8. Athena

    The truth is available but a lot of people are not information literate.

  9. Phil

    Highly pertinent opinions thank you James M – I think patience is the virtue to exercise here. James Moylan’s critique resonates and should be disseminated widely. Change will come when Murdoch dies, whence his cold, suffocating grip on the global media throat is prized off and his grotesque cadaver is hurled into a vat of hot oil whilst millions cheer him on his long tortuous journey to the inevitable meeting with Beelzebub.

  10. Freethinker

    Some time the truth is a bad news for some when it is going against their ideology.
    Look in the New England, people were well informed and voted for second class NBN (if they get it) gas mining and deteriorating of their land, bad health services and education.

  11. kizhmet

    TheAIMN is my first port of call every morning. John Lord’s “Date to Day Politics” whilst on the bus on my way to work. Love reading the comments and different points of view freely expressed and debated. I glance at MSM headlines just to see what fluffery is being printed in the name of news and usually do a Google search without actually reading any articles. I visit the Guardian/SMH websites sometimes and read through the comments there. In very broad terms I have noticed an increasing disaffection with our broken political system and the way it is presented by MSM. More people seem to be aware neoliberalism/Right Wing Conservatism isn’t working – not just in Australia but globally.

    I wholeheartedly agree the monolithic MSM needs to be reined in, although I would be hard-pressed to suggest how that might be achieved. Limiting ownership may be a way to start.

    The “news” Albanese was challenging for the ALP leadership this morning was infuriating. I daresay it has little, if any, resemblance to truth; propaganda at the hand of Puppet-master Murdoch to destabilise Labor.

    As Kaye Lee pointed out in another feed, we can thank Abbott for waking up apathetic voters. I was one of them.

    SGB – I do not understand the voting public either. I am newly awakened to politics. Never engaged in discussions with friends before this election. I confess I was utterly mortified and gobsmacked to hear their political perspectives; I would have incorrectly guessed “Green” in some instances. Boy was I mistaken! Intelligent, rational, compassionate people sucked into the Liberal/Right Wing vacuum.

    Until we re-establish we are society first, not an economy, I fear we are doomed to repeat the same failures. I believe we are reaching the tipping point. Brexit. Our own election results. Trump in the US. I am trying to remain hopeful we can resolve the political divide but I am fearful. Very. At least here, at TheAIMN, sanity prevails and helps restore my faith we will get there … eventually.

  12. Miriam English

    Ally, the ABC used to be that trusted source. Imagine my dismay the day after the media blackout on political propaganda when I was in the doctor’s waiting room and the big wall TV they have there was showing Mathias Corman talking for I reckon about quarter of an hour about how good the LNP would be for Australia if elected. It was blatant propaganda on ABC24 during the pre-election media blackout. I took a photo so that I’d have a record of time and date.

    Of course nobody will be slapped over the wrist for it. The media, as James says have nearly shifted into full Orwell mode. They’re not quite there yet, but they’re getting damn close.

  13. Jaquix

    Agree – there has definitely been a change of ethos at the ABC. Fact Check getting the chop is disgraceful, it was an excellent way of keeping the pollies’ pronouncements under scrutiny. Political decision surely. Presenters are getting bolder in showing their personal bias. Malcolm loves to meddle with the ABC. Any chance of an AIM item about the Canadian regulations curbing the media? Anyone waiting for Murdoch should be reminded that his mother lived to the age of 103, and he has 2 sons who’ve been groomed to take over.

  14. jim

    They are all doing their Masters jobs brilliantly.there fixed…….“A nation can survive its fools, and even the ambitious. But it cannot survive treason aka Newscorp ect… from within. An enemy at the gates is less formidable, for he is known and carries his banner openly. But the traitor moves amongst those within the gate freely, his sly whispers rustling through all the alleys, heard in the very halls of government itself. For the traitor appears not a traitor; he speaks in accents familiar to his victims, and he wears their face and their arguments, he appeals to the baseness that lies deep in the hearts of all men. He rots the soul of a nation, he works secretly and unknown in the night to undermine the pillars of the city, he infects the body politic so that it can no longer resist. A murderer is less to fear.”

    Newscorp and the MSM are holding our country back at every issue…. the economy our health and even our lives ,send us to war.

    ……………………………………………..Is there anyone that is yet to recognise that Australia’s sovereignty is to be systematically extinguished by our assimilation into an empire controlled by the system of giant banks and corporations? Is there anyone who clings to some sort of comfort that the corporations will treat people and the environment with respect, even when all sovereign laws aimed at protecting people and the environment are set aside under the guise of free trade Stop The TPP ……..

  15. jim

    Fn astounding the feds are now investigating “fake text messages” from medicare. how about the feds investigate J Bishop here…where Bishop claims Ms Aly of supporting terrorism no go for the fake texts, hypocrites to the bone these Liberal bastards.
    “Ms Aly was accused during the campaign by senior Liberals, including Julie Bishop and Michael Keenan, of having provided support to hardline Islamist preacher Junaid Thorne, after she wrote a submission to a court suggesting he could be a candidate for a federally funded deradicalisation program.

  16. Steve Laing -

    Personally I think that journalism ought to be treated like a profession in that if you are found to have told lies you are struck off, and banned from practising. Imagine how quickly things would change if that were the case. Simples.

  17. babyjewels10

    Murdoch just bought every regional paper in Queensland. But it doesn’t affect me. I haven’t bought a newspaper in about 6 years. But I guess there will be a few more LNP voters in Qld. in the next election. Shame about ABC capitulating, I used to enjoy their news.

  18. kerri

    Was just having this very discussion with hubby! We are politically opposed however we both agree that lazy journalism is trumps! Far easier and quicker to opine endlessly on the political situation than to actually do some legwork and research to draw out the truth, or, heaven forbid, actually ask the public? The fact that so many in the MSM and even the ABC called it a Turnbull landlslide on zero evidence and in total contradiction to the polls smacks of trying to direct the public rather than inform! And they wonder why people refuse to pay for their garbage? The media are dying and the internet is winning! This is clear when you compare the overall opinions online to the print and electronic media! Why on earth would you pay to be told what to think when general online commentary is the complete opposite?
    Add to this the urgent, nay obsessive need to be the first, that the media regularly blame on “the 24 hour news cycle” , when in fact the media are obsessed with being the “ONE” outlet to have got it right!
    It seems ironic that whilst good investigative journalism exposed live baiting of greyhounds the rest of the media could well be accused of live baiting themselves?
    Didn’t anyone learn from the Queensland election??.?
    I’ll keep reading the AIMN. Far more accurate and up to date!
    And it is our press that have encouraged the rise of politically dangerous imbeciles like Pauline Hanson.

  19. z

    polls do not necessarily represent voters opinion, it merely reflects opinions of capitalist who own the media and wish to lead election outcome

  20. Miriam English

    Jaqix, I’m beginning to wonder if Murdoch will ever die. He probably feeds on the blood of virgins. 🙂

    Perhaps Ambrose Bierce travelled forward in time to witness the Australian mainstream media and politics of today, then returned to the 1800s to write this:

    History. An account, mostly false, of events, mostly unimportant,
    which are brought about by rulers, mostly knaves, and soldiers, mostly fools.

    — Ambrose Bierce

  21. Wayne Turner

    NOT that we needed it,but more proof the Main Stream Media is UNDEMOCRATIC,BIASED & the promotional wing of the LNP.

    Sadly the Libs ABC has become one of the worst.ABC = Also Biased Crap.

    Steve Laing: Perfect idea. Correctly ALL of the current lot would be struck off.

    A shame the MSM can’t voted out too.

  22. Bryan Kavanagh

    Or to quote Ambrose Bierce once again, and to understand our current economic malaise (which never makes it into the MSM): “LAND, n. A part of the earth’s surface, considered as property. The theory that land is property subject to private ownership and control is the foundation of modern society, and is eminently worthy of the superstructure. Carried to its logical conclusion, it means that some have the right exclusively to occupy; and in fact laws of trespass are enacted wherever property in land is recognised. It follows that if the whole area of terra firm is owned by A, B and C, there will be no place for D, E, F and G to be born, or, born as trespassers, to exist.

  23. Jaquix

    Just noticed there is a Facebook page called STOP Murdoch – havent checked it out yet.

  24. wam

    I am with you miriam in the three months before sept2013 the ABC radio 0830-1100 every day mentioned gillard’s debt crisis. Whilst on friday am the breakfast man replayed an earlier interview with turnball about a ten minute plug for the local candidate.
    Sad that two side reporting became labor bias and when kerry embarrassed the rabbott with peak download and then sales with have you read the report. the laborising was complete in the libs eyes.(in my neighbours mind the courier is a labor rag and he hasn’t watched the ABC since that useless woman was PM)
    not so sure about straightjackets they seem zealous in pursuit of ruperts goalsl

  25. amarkone

    James James James, when Gough had trouble with the news papers back in the days of old I decided not to subscribe to the problem by buying the moguls telecrap anymore so why do any of you continue to support this industry. As far as journos are concerned I put most into the moron category, I say most, because there are a couple of intelligent operators out there, just don’t ask me to name them. But, there is a light at the end of the tunnel, young people today don’t read newspapers, listen to Ray Hadley or watch TV so hip hip horay, the dinosaurs of the media world are on the way out and they only have themselves to blame. Take solace, no more is their influence as great as you think, like most advertising it builds a lot of hype on very little substance. The big thing that we all need to understand is that the narrative to counteract crap has to be delivered with conviction, truth and a touch of Paul Keatingesk verbal thrashing. Turnbull fell into the Liberal party mold very quickly with slogans and no substance and he has been found out to be a dud operator with a pathetic delivery process whereas Bill Shorten has not only surprised me but many other people as to how sharp and effective he is when presented with gotcha moments, plus his policies have substance. Now of course, we also understand that the ABC has been infiltrated and people like Leigh Sales are having their moment in the sun with their ‘look at me, look at me’ questioning style but it will come to pass that just like the right wing don’t like or trust the ABC because of their previous ‘center of the road reporting’ the ‘normal’ people like, dare I say, you and me, will now not give a flying fig if it gets trampled. I use news 24 as background sound only because it is really falling apart at the seams when it comes to unbiased quality. I watch channel 9 to see what bullshit is being put out their (the cat had kittens and a pine cone fell on somebodies car) and all of that satisfies the negative side of my persona and then I drink coffee, look at the flowers in the garden and watch the birds sing and dance and that covers the positive side. Remember when Brian Henderson read the news without putting his slant on the subject at hand, well now people are all treated like mushrooms, kept in the dark and fed on bullshit.

  26. Matthew Oborne

    There is one issue I keep going back to and that is the correct information is vital in a democracy, people as a whole have been shown time and time again to make the correct choice when it is presented honestly, and that is the foundation stone of democracy but also the key to its weakness. To have professional propagandists in the media serves no one in the public. Any Guidelines would have to be based around public interest and publics right to know, take the NBN it is public interest yet the public have not been given a proper opinion on it nor the attacks on Medicare, the Libs say it is unfounded, yet changes that ere due to come in one July 1 were postponed because they would have been met with public anger. The ABC has to be balanced, would you expect the ABC to be balanced even if we became a dictatorship, even if government was working against the people? well that is what happens with the latter example.

  27. Pingback: The instant, universal, collective amnesia of the MSM – The AIM Network via #AusPol – #AusElection

  28. king1394

    Predicting the outcomes rather than report the facts as they stand. When did the MSM turn to prophesy? Half the scandals and crisis they ‘report’ have not happened either then or at all. The immediate move to speculation about which party would form government before the count was clear is just typical. It doesn’t matter what the subject is – sport, celebrities, get the same sort of thing based often on rumour and speculation.
    It is strange that the one issue that requires some prognostication, that is how climate change and environmental degradation will affect us all, is the one issue that the mass media constantly downplay.

  29. Harquebus

    You are not alone in your assessment James.

    “The state and quality of main stream journalism (MSJ), including that at our own ABC and despite what they might think of themselves, has deteriorated to the point of being totally useless.”
    Harquebus’ latest newsletter….

    “We all soon realized, simply by taking note of who got fired and who got promoted, that the purpose of journalism was to get ratings. Cleavage and short skirts got ratings: The “weather girl” of yore was soon joined by the anchor babe. Bleeding, weeping and gnashing of teeth got ratings: “If it bleeds, it leads,” became the rule.”

    The Fall, and Further Fall, of Broadcast Journalism

    “The average reporter we talk to is 27 years old, and their only reporting experience consists of being around political campaigns. That’s a sea change. They literally know nothing.

  30. Julia Martin

    I have long since realised this was the case. I dont read newspapers for this reason.

  31. Jaquix

    A free press (that is, free from bias and propaganda) is absolutely essential to a healthy democracy. Murdoch has been distorting information and promoting his chosen side of politics for far too long. The internet has diluted this malevolent influrence, allowing us alternative sources of infirnation and interaction. Fairfax are more reliable, but even The Age editorial actually saying “we urge you to vote Coalition”. Despite their abysmal record.

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